The Possibility of Language

A discussion of the nature of language, with implications for human and machine translation

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This book is about the limits of machine translation. It is widely recognized that machine translation systems do much better on domain-specific controlled-language texts (domain texts for short) than on dynamic general-language texts (general texts for short). The authors explore this general — domain distinction and come to some uncommon conclusions about the nature of language. Domain language is claimed to be made possible by general language, while general language is claimed to be made possible by the ethical dimensions of relationships. Domain language is unharmed by the constraints of objectivism, while general language is suffocated by those constraints. Along the way to these conclusions, visits are made to Descartes and Saussure, to Chomsky and Lakoff, to Wittgenstein and Levinas. From these conclusions, consequences are drawn for machine translation and translator tools, for linguistic theory and translation theory. The title of the book does not question whether language is possible; it asks, with wonder and awe, why communication through language is possible.

Subjects: Natural language processing; Translation studies

  • Affiliations: 1: Brigham Young University at Provo

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